Why Brady has taken a beating

Photo Courtesy of the Miami Dolphins
On Friday, MassLive.com blogger Nick Underhill wrote a great piece about why Tom Brady has seen his sack total increase this season. Underhill gives a number of reasons for the rise in sacks, but the most telling statistics stem from how long Brady has held the ball.

 Read Nick Underhill's story here
Brady has held the ball a few tenths of a second longer per attempt than he did last season, when he had the fastest trigger in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com. That alone does not say much. But after reviewing all of New England's passing plays this season, an internal study found that Brady has held the ball for more than three seconds on 67 of his attempts this season, and more than 3.75 seconds on 27 attempts. What this indicates is that there have been times this season when his receivers have not gotten open fast enough.

What Underhill's numbers prove is something many Patriots fans have already noticed just by giving this offense the eye test. Brady has been holding the ball for a long time. Some games it has almost become glaring, especially because most of us are used to watching Brady throw slants and screens that have the ball out of his hands in the blink of an eye. I cannot recall another season where I've seen Brady look so indecisive.

This sequence of events is starting to look familiar: drop back, hop up and down, look through the progression, pump fake, feel the pressure, step up in the pocket, take sack.

This is in stark contrast to the game I watched last night, where Peyton Manning seemed to have the ball out of his hand before the Chiefs mighty pass rushers were even out of their stances.

Now, I don't believe for one second that this has anything to do with Brady's skills or decision making. I would put most of the blame on the receiving core. For much of the season Brady's top two targets have been rookie receivers, one of which wasn't even drafted. Some plays the rookies struggled to get open, some plays they ran the wrong routes, and on some occasions Brady just looked like he didn't trust his target enough to throw him open.

The receivers are not entirely at fault here though. There is only so much you can expect out of a group of rookies and free agents who haven't had a very long time to learn the Patriot's complicated offense, or to work with Brady. However, things should be getting better. Rob Gronkowski finally looked like his old self against the Steelers, Aaron Dobson is becoming more dependable each week, Danny Amendola is finally healthy, and Shane Vereen has a good chance of making his return tonight against the Panthers.

It is now week 11 and the bye week is behind us. At this point in the year, the growing pains should start to dwindle as all these new parts on offense begin to gel. I expect to see the ball coming out of Tom Brady's hand a little bit faster every week, as he gains more and more trust in his new teammates. And if this offense is capable of battling to a 7-2 record during a transitional period, I can't wait to see what they can do with a little experience under their belts.

-Ryan Cereola